In recent years, the face of healthcare has dramatically shifted, growing in leaps and bounds over its previous iterations. While the practice of medicine still has much to improve on, gone are the days of questionable treatment practices and barbers moonlighting as doctors.
One of the primary contributors to this notable overhauling of healthcare change, especially with regard to how doctors care for their patients, is the advent of big data. In the realm of healthcare, big data pertains to all of the information collected regarding patients. It can include the way the medical facility operates and even things such as wearable technology and genome sequencing.
Innovative providers and researchers have found novel ways to apply what they’ve gleaned from our vast databases of information. They’ve used it to adjust the way they’ve approached the care of patients. Four remarkable outcomes have already taken place.
Improving Preventative Healthcare
The introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) has helped shift our focus. At-home health tracking devices are now the subject of increased attention. Notable examples include the Apple Watch and the Fitbit.
These wearables, and others, allow people to keep track of their overall wellness. Users can track everything from how much movement a person gets during the day to how much quality rest they get at night. While these devices were once more of a niche, hobby-type item, they’ve now managed to find their way into the healthcare mainstream.
Today, healthcare providers use the data cultivated from these fitness wearables to help stay one step ahead of a number of preventable conditions. Furthermore, the information gleaned from these devices also affords providers a better overall picture of a patient’s health.
For example, a recurrent pattern of poor sleep can hint at other health conditions, such as sleep apnea. Preventable conditions can be more quickly circumvented. Reliable data helps diagnose these conditions before they progress to a more advanced stage.
Bolstering Patient Treatment
Big data has also been an indispensable tool in changing how providers care and treat their patients. This information is used to better comprehend correlations between certain criteria.
For example, doctors can attain a larger scope of the overall wellness of a patient. They can see their records in a single snapshot and apply them to their care and treatment. In turn, they can eliminate guesswork. They immediately see how many times a patient has been seen with a similar chief complaint.
With big data at their fingertips, physicians can know at a glance what medications a patient takes. They can determine how many times a patient has sought care for a medical concern or issue.
Information collected from big data can even alert physicians to allergies to medications or substances. This allows for the improvement of the quality of care. It also allows physicians to rule out ineffectual treatments.
Minimizing Healthcare Diagnostic Errors
One of the most preventable and tragic things that can occur in any healthcare setting is a critical diagnostic error that leads to the harm or even loss of a patient.
While doctors undergo rigorous and extensive training to allow them to give their patients the highest caliber of care, the sad truth is that mistakes can and do happen. Although many of these mistakes lead to minimal repercussions, far too many leave lasting and devastating damage to a patient. Errors such as this go into reports, data, and rankings for everything from insurance companies to hospitals to individual surgeons.
Fortunately, one of the objectives of big data overhauling the healthcare setting is to help prevent these incidents from occurring.
One such initiative is through applications that identify and pinpoint treatment and prescription errors before they arise. Doctors can carefully sift through patient records. They can determine whether patients received the correct medication or procedure. In turn, this awareness leads to a reduction of the risk of surgical and drug errors. It also leads to a reduced likelihood of erroneous treatment.
Streamlining Electronic Health Records
One of the most beneficial innovations since big data began overhauling healthcare has been the introduction of electronic health records or EHR. These digital patient records are more convenient and environmentally sound than the more archaic paper charts. They also help promote an improved quality of care for patients.
The use of EHR sharply reduces the risk of losing a chart. The improved ability to transfer records between clinics and providers is near-instantaneous, reducing the lag between diagnosis and care. Nevertheless, some healthcare providers have been hesitant about trusting in EHR as many of the contracts can be somewhat unyielding.
While the application of software for contract lifecycle management can help instill confidence between providers and EHR companies, what ultimately matters is that this tool is actually utilized. When it is, big data contained in EHRs transfers to the appropriate parties to further improve treatment.
The Future of Big Data
It’s no secret that big data has transformed how healthcare providers treat their patients. It’s even transformed how medical and biotech equipment is manufactured. But of course, healthcare has a long way to go before it’s seamless.
Through these innovations in healthcare — as well as many others — it’s only a matter of time before providers can identify, diagnose, treat, and even prevent disease before it starts. Until then, however, patients will be grateful that big data for noticeable improvements in care from the providers that choose to employ it.